BERKELEY -- James Harden, one of the NBA's premier wing players, watched from courtside Saturday afternoon as Cal defeated Fresno State 67-56 in front of 9,342 fans at Haas Pavilion.
There was a time Richard Solomon may have thought he could become James Harden. No more.
The Cal senior, having finally accepted his role as a low-post player this season, had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bears (8-3) in what was otherwise a ragged offensive game. Solomon shot 7 of 9 from the floor, adding three steals, two blocks and two assists.
"I didn't want to be a post player. I thought I was a perimeter player. That's where the confusion came in," Solomon said of the problems he sometimes caused himself in the past. "I'm 6-11, I don't need to be on the wing. I'm not Kevin Durant."
Or James Harden.
"I'll be a post player all day," Solomon said. "It's just maturity."
Solomon's season-high scoring performance was critical on a day the rest of the Bears shot a combined 36.5 percent (19 for 52). Cal was 4 for 19 from the 3-point line and missed five free throws in the final seven minutes of the game.
"It just felt streaky on offense for everybody," guard Ricky Kreklow said. "Overall, it was one of those ugly nights. But it's better to win ugly than lose pretty."
Kreklow, who had 11 points, four assists and four rebounds, said Solomon was a nice security blanket.
"A big part of our offense is really finding our bigs down low," he said. "We want to build it inside out early. That gets everybody confidence ... we've got to stick to that."
Solomon, at times erratic as a young Cal player, seems to have figured out what he needs to provide his team. This was his third double-double of the season and his fifth game with at least 10 rebounds.
Coach Mike Montgomery, whose 665th career victory moved him one ahead of the legendary John Wooden, was pleased to see Solomon play his best game since suffering a scratched eye three weeks ago in the Maui Invitational.
"He felt he wasn't playing as well as he was before that. I agree," Montgomery said. "He was in a good rhythm. Hopefully, he's back to that."
Point guard Justin Cobbs had 13 points, Tyrone Wallace contributed 12 points, five assists and rebounds, and David Kravish grabbed 12 rebounds. But the Bears got just eight points on 3-for-12 shooting from freshmen Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews, who entered the game averaging a combined 21 points.
The Bears were much better defensively, limiting the Bulldogs (6-5) to 32.8 percent from the field.
"Sometimes you've got to win with defense," Montgomery said. "It wasn't pretty in a lot of ways. Too many mistakes. But defensively, I thought we were good. They followed the game plan."
Marvelle Harris, FSU's top scorer on the season, scored 13 points but was scoreless in the first half and shot 5 for 18. Senior guard Tyler Johnson of Mountain View added 12 points for Fresno.